Israeli soldiers have taken part in the construction of an unauthorized settler outpost in the West Bank that Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered dismantled, photos obtained by Haaretz show.
The photos, thought to have been taken about two weeks ago, show troops carrying prefabricated, temporary homes in Evyatar. The soldiers, who have been guarding the outpost regularly over the past weeks, were identified.
The military said the soldiers had not received approval from a commander and that it would launch an investigation and take disciplinary steps against them if necessary.
Evyatar is under a demarcation order that is supposed to lead to the outpost being evacuated within days. The order also forbids people from bringing construction materials into the outpost or building inside it. A number of politicians have visited the outpost to show support in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich took part in a Torah scroll inauguration ceremony in Evyatar, while Likud lawmakers Miki Zohar and Shlomo Karhi attended a rally there last month. Religious Zionism lawmaker Simcha Rothman also visited Evyatar, and settler leader Yossi Dagan temporarily moved his office there this week.
The military said Friday that the troops had to guard the outpost to protect its residents amid violent clashes with Palestinians and that it would investigate the soldiers' involvement in building the outpost.
Settler leaders argue that the land on which the outpost has been established has not yet been categorized by the Civil Administration as either privately owned or owned by the state. The Civil Administration told Haaretz that the issue was still under examination.
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On Thursday, Gantz issued a stern rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he delay the evacuation of Evyatar, saying that he had no authority regarding evacuation orders.
In response to the prime minister's letter on Wednesday claiming that the order to evacuate the outpost of Evyatar was improper, Gantz’s office issued a statement saying, “There is no provision in the law stating that an evacuation order in the Judea and Samaria area requires the approval of the prime minister.”
The outpost, built on the site of an army base on land owned by the villages of Beita, Qabalan and Yatma, was established in response to the shooting attack at the junction at the beginning of May, in which a yeshiva student, Yehuda Guetta, was murdered.
The outpost is named after Evyatar Borovsky, a resident of the settlement of Yitzhar who was murdered in a terror attack in May 2013. Following his murder there were three attempts to build an outpost at the site – in 2013, 2016 and 2018 – but the mobile homes and other structures erected there were quickly evacuated.